Sunday, August 15

2021 PFF & IHSFF Festival Recap – Saturday, August 14th

 Coda’s ongoing coverage of the 2021 Phoenix Film Festival & International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival. I'll be using these posts to recap the films I've experienced as part of these festivals.



By Emery Snyder - @leeroy711

BEANS – Directed by Tracey Deer


This is a coming-of-age story about “Beans” (Kiawentiio), a young Mohawk girl as she tried to navigate all the trials and tribulations of a growing tween in the midst of the Oka Crisis in Quebec, 1990, a land dispute between the Mohawk people and the town of Oka that led to a 78-day standoff.

This film has a whole lot going for it. The cinematography was beautiful and well supported by a nice and familiar stringed score. I appreciated how the story of Beans and her family’s struggles with the conflict were interlaced with a lot of actual footage from news reports of the time. It created a contrast between how communities at large treat these types of clashes and how it effects those at the more personal micro level. On an aside, the townspeople of Oka do not come of looking very good in this film. This struck me considering that this only happened 30 years ago and the vast majority of people shown, in actual footage, carrying racist signs and committing acts of violence to their neighbors, are still alive today. I try to imagine what it might be like for a 55-year-old Quebecois that was there at the time, now watching this film… But I digress…

What I’d like to primarily highlight about the film is the performances, most specifically of our main character. Nominated for the “One to Watch” award by the Vancouver Film Critics Circle, Kiawentiio is the epitome of natural here. Overall it was an outstanding ensemble but I have hopes for her career in particular.

My only real critique of the film is that at times it seems to have a few too many themes that it’s attempting to explore. I know that this may just be the natural byproduct of a young girl’s coming-of-age story but it feels a bit unfocused. I’ve read the film described as “semi-autobiographical”. So I’m not sure how many of these themes are from the filmmaker’s own life so I’m hesitant to say anything too negative. But some of the things that Beans goes through here, would deserve their own feature film.


Additional Screening: Tueday, August 17th @ 2:30 PM & Thursday, August 19th @ 11:55 AM



THE NIGHT HOUSE – Directed by David Bruckner


Beth (Rebecca Hall), a recently widowed high-school teacher struggles to put the pieces together of her late husband’s secret life. This is a psychological horror about loss, grief and paranoia that lives in the supernatural.

Rebecca Hall is a fantastic actor and this is still abundantly clear here. Her mannerisms and expressions as the grief-stricken and clearly troubled widow are perfect. And I don’t think I’ve seen her deal with this level of physicality in a performance prior to this film. This is the type of performance that is too often overlooked because of its genre but it shouldn’t be. Great professionals do great work.

I would also add that we don’t often talk enough about the amazing work that cinematographers do in horror. So much of this film takes place in the shadows and moonlight. This can often lead to a dull visual palette and/or dimly lit, hard to follow sequences. Director of Photography, Elisha Christian deserves a ton of credit for the hauntingly beautiful look of this film. This is not surprising from the man that also shot 2017’s COLUMBUS.

Unfortunately, for all that THE NIGHT HOUSE has going for it, I just couldn’t get behind its pacing. Meaning, I was consistently ahead of each plot point, by about 20 minutes or so. This is why it’s tough to pull off the slow-burn horror. For a genre as visceral as this, audience engagement is key. And it tends to wane for me in films that seem satisfied with repeatedly tugging on the strings of inevitability without actually moving the plot forward. Ultimately, I was disappointed. I’ve seen far worse but rarely in a film with this much technical potential.


THE NIGHT HOUSE opens wide, Friday, August 20th

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